It is doubtful that there is anybody in either Sleepy Hollow or Tarrytown who hasn’t asked that question lately. In a conversation with Chris Olert, the Assistant Director of Media Relations for Con Edison in NYC, River Journal had the opportunity to ask not only that key question, but also had a chance to understand the answer.
Olert began by stating that, on the average, bills have gone up recently as much as 30-35%.
The basic answer coming from Con Edison and others dealing with the supply of energy is that the worldwide costs of oil and gas have risen substantially and those costs are ultimately being passed along to the consumer. Con Edison no longer generates its own energy, but rather, acts as a transmission and distribution agent for competing energy-generating companies. “Transmission” is a term that refers to longer distance cable, towers and wires, and “Distribution” refers to shorter distance wires such as those that go from the utility pole to your home. Con Edison pointed out that these two areas of cost, i.e. T&D, have not increased, but in fact have remained stable even though the cost of gas and oil has increased.
When asked about the recent high profits which oil companies were reporting, several experts said that much of this will be put back into competing at world price levels as well as into alternative sources. Katrina costs also have entered the picture. The accompanying chart from Con Edison is one that probably deserves national attention particularly since we are increasingly dependent on foreign energy sources. While natural gas and oil are used to produce the bulk of our electricity, note that nuclear power produces 33% of the area’s electricity and much of that goes directly to our school system buildings and to municipal buildings. Nuclear power allows public officials to plan much longer into the future for energy costs since this type of electrical supply is not dependent on the whims of a world-wide oil market. Certain currently popular alternatives such as solar power and wind, unfortunately, have severe limitations in making up major energy requirements. In fact, Con Edison estimates that last year’s peak day in the New York area took some 13,000 megawatts. One megawatt can furnish the electricity for 1000 homes. To provide solar panels for such a peak day would not only require many miles of paneling, but would beg the question of exactly where these panels would be installed, particularly in a heavily populated metropolitan area. To that point, Con Edison calculated that it would take 35 Central Parks packed end to end with solar paneling to generate the required 13,000 megawatts! Further, not every day is sunny or windy here in the Northeast.
To help offset these rising costs, Con Edison has recommended a number of programs that can help. One new recent wrinkle, called “Energy Star,” was developed with significant help from a Con Edison engineer among others. This “Star” notation is affixed by manufacturers to the most energy efficient appliances sold at retail. Another program, called “ESCOs,” stands for Energy Services Companies, and will compete not only with Con Edison for lowest rates but with all other energy suppliers. The web site that can furnish these competing suppliers is www.conEd.com More recently, the company has offered an internet-controlled thermostat for modulating air conditioning units. Contact for this program is 1-866-521-8600. Customers can also ask for Con Edison’s “Everyday Energy Savings Tips” booklet at 1-800-609-4488.
One more thing, as your Mother used to say, “turn off the lights when you are not using them!”